Tedy’s Team Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery holds Wellness Walk for stroke survivors, aims to help in ways not possible within traditional healthcare system.
Under a cloudless summer sky, they walked. And talked. And took part in a community.
On the surface, it might not seem that significant, but for the more than dozen stroke survivors and their families, the Waterfront Wellness Walk: Strides for Stroke Awareness and Prevention was everything.
The first event coordinated by the Tedy’s Team Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, the walk gave participants the chance to improve their fitness, socialize, and enjoy the Boston waterfront and the New England Aquarium.
Stroke survivor Lisa A. Sims was there, accompanied by her adult son, Jevon Okundaye.
“As a stroke survivor, I look for anything that's going to have me connected with the stroke community because it's always a good time,” said Sims, who suffered her stroke 11 years ago. “You're with like-minded people and you feel like you have the same values here, and you're doing things outside.”
For Tedy’s Team, the event was about putting research findings into practice.
“We know that community and participation leads to better quality of life, better physical outcomes, and better mental health for people with stroke,” said Dr. Kim Erler, Director of the Tedy’s Team center. “We also know that physical activity and having a care partner with you also helps with outcome. So, we were able to take what we know from the literature about the importance of community participation, the importance of physical health, the importance of social support, and bring it all together and translate it into an actual event for people with strokes.”
The Coalition for a Resilient and Inclusive Waterfront also teamed with the IHP and the aquarium to make this wellness walk possible for clients who receive services at the Institute’s Sanders IMPACT Practice Center. With faculty and students providing support and encouragement, the walk began at the aquarium, proceeded along Central Wharf, then ended back at the aquarium where participants received free admission.
Although stroke survivors typically take less than half the daily steps of their unaffected peers, that wasn’t the case on this day. Survivor Steve Parnell, who suffered his stroke in January of 2018, couldn’t have been more pleased.
“I thought it was so important to walk only because it helps your brain get better,” said Parnell, who has been receiving care at the IHP’s Aphasia Center for two and a half years. “For 43 days, I couldn't even tell you my first word, but to be with those people, to be at the aquarium, to see the penguins and everything else like that, It was something you couldn't even imagine. For me, it was critical to get involved.”
The Center, which had its ribbon-cutting last March, was made possible thanks to a $1 million gift by Tedy’s Team, the charitable entity that uses running as a platform for stroke awareness and philanthropy. It was co-founded by former New England Patriot great Tedy Bruschi and his wife, Heidi, after he suffered a stroke at the age of 31. Through his rehabilitation, Bruschi made a stunning return to professional football. The Bruschis are hoping fellow stroke survivors being assisted at the MGH Institute will have the same opportunity for a comeback as Tedy received.
Supporting stroke survivors as they live their best lives is the primary goal of the center, where there is major emphasis to find opportunities for translating research findings into practice in ways that aren’t possible within the traditional health care system.
“If you go to any rehabilitation center, the insurance company is really driving how long you get to stay,” noted Erler. “And if they have seven days, the therapists have to work on what they need to do for you to get home, right? They can't say, ‘Oh, let's focus on community engagement even if you can't get yourself dressed. That’s why the Tedy's Team Center is so unique and positioned to actually pave the way for change because we aren't constrained by the traditional models of healthcare in the reimbursement system. Instead of doing what we're told by insurance companies, we’re able to actually translate what we know from the research into practice.”
Dr. Gwen Larsen, the center’s Community Outreach, developed this event and collaborated with 2021 Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate Ian Karby, who is the Health and Wellness Advisor for the Coalition for Resilient and Inclusive Waterfront.
For Sims, the successful waterfront walk introduced her to the harbor front and provided a boost of confidence that she can do that walk all on her own.
“That wellness walk was something – it was really nice,” said Sims, who traveled to the walk from her Dorchester home. ““I thought it was very beneficial because you were able to talk to others who are with the IHP and those who have had strokes. Some of them I even remember only because we both had strokes in the past. Some of the survivors had canes, some were in wheelchairs, but it was nice because everyone was part of the process.”
More events like this are part of the plan.
“We hope to have many more of these with even larger participation,” said Erler. “We’re really going to be working on that goal of helping stroke survivors be in the community and live a full life.”
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